Ponoka born and raised speedskater Maddison Pearman, 26, was selected for the Canada Olympic team last week, and the Ponoka community may be as excited as Pearman herself — well, almost.
“I’m extremely excited to be a part of the team,” said Pearman in an interview with Ponoka News.
“These will be my first Olympics, and I’m looking forward to skating my best and representing Canada, and especially Ponoka.”
Since the announcement, Pearman has gotten a wave of shout outs and congratulations on social media from locals, including from Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins and the Ponoka Minor Soccer Association (PMSA), which Pearman is an alumna of.
“Since the team was announced, I’ve received so many comments, likes and messages of support and it’s absolutely amazing to see,” she said.
“I’m so grateful and thankful that I have such a large fan base behind me and have so many people cheering for me when I’m in Beijing.”
While Pearman grew up skating at the Red Deer Club and has been speedskating since she was five, she got her start right here in Ponoka.
“I first learned to skate at the Ponoka arena during the family skate times,” Pearman said.
Growing up in Ponoka, Pearman played soccer with the PMSA from ages five to 18 and started running track with the WolfPack Track Club (a club her parents started) in Grade 3 until she graduated from Ponoka Secondary Campus. She also ran cross-country and played basketball and volleyball.
Being a Pearman, speedskating is pretty much in her blood, with the family recently being awarded the Gagné Family Award from Speed Skating Canada.
“Both my parents definitely had an impact on me becoming a speed skater,” said Pearman, adding that without her mom, Shawna Pearman, she doesn’t know if she would have been introduced to the sport.
She noted that her parents made many sacrifices so she and her sisters could be involved in a variety of sports.
“They have helped me become the athlete I am today. I did, however, fall in love with the sport on my own,” she said.
“We were never pressured to keep skating because my mom did but my sisters and I loved the sport and that’s what kept us skating for so many years.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to stand on top of the podium at the Olympics one day and that has kept me motivated for the past 21 years.”
Pearman says she’s just excited to be able to experience something as big as the Olympics and to take it all in.
“It’s an absolute honour and privilege to wear the maple leaf on my back and to represent Canada at the Olympics,” she said.
“After all the years of hard work, dedication and struggling through adversity, I’m so excited for this amazing opportunity.”
Pearman said that like every athlete, she’s had triumphs and setbacks throughout her career.
“I’ve been down in Calgary for eight years now and it definitely hasn’t been an easy path to get to this point,” she said. “I’ve been training hard, going to school, working, and doing everything to be the best athlete I could be and things just didn’t always come together in my racing.
“It’s extremely tough to train day in and day out, 11 months out of the year, six days a week and still not be where I want to be. Four years ago I watched my teammates qualify for the Olympics and unfortunately I wasn’t quite there yet.”
Pearman said it was really hard to stay motivated at that point, but she kept skating because “I knew there was so much more in me that I had to prove to myself, and everyone around me.”
With a new coach and a different training environment over the last four years, she said she’s learned to take the things that she thought were failures and to turn them into something she can learn from.
This season was the first time that she made the Fall World Cup team.
“That came with challenges that have helped me prepare for these Games.”
She qualified for the World Cup Circuit in long-track speed skating at the Canadian Long Track Championships.
Pearman took the bronze medal in the 1,000-metre race, came in fourth in the 500-metre race — setting a new personal best record — and came in fifth in the 1,500-metre race.
The championships marked the first competition for Pearman in 18 months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She had a strong season on the World Cup Tour as a rookie, finishing as the top-ranked 1,000 metre skater in Canada, back in December.
Olympic trials in Quebec in December were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Pearman’s first race at the Olympics will be on Feb. 7, although she is leaving for China on Jan. 26 to prepare and quarantine.
She will skate the 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre and joins a team of eight men and seven other women competing in long track speed skating at Beijing 2022.
“I also hope that this helps inspire the next generation of athletes in Ponoka, especially young girls. I hope it shows that with hard work, and dedication you can make your dreams a reality.”
After the Olympics? The sky’s the limit.
“I definitely have a fire within me to keep competing. I feel like I am just starting to tap into my potential as a skater and I have a lot of motivation to keep training right now for the 2026 Olympics in Italy,” she said.
Down the road after retiring, she might consider coming back to the sport as a coach like her mom did.
In the meantime, she graduated from University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology last fall. She’s been looking into into programs and careers related to the sporting or health care field for after she’s retired from speed skating, but now may be leaning to a career in the agriculture and farming industry.
Pearman said she’s recently moved back home for a few months to make training a bit easier. Her parents run a cow-calf operation just outside of Rimbey.
“I found a lot of joy working on our family farm,” she said.
– With files from Byron Hackett, Red Deer Advocate